Bayern – Yes! Schalke and Hannover?
UEFA Europa League Preview
FC Schalke vs. Athletic Bilbao
Atlético Madrid vs. Hannover 96
UEFA Europa League Scoreboard
March 29 – FC Bayern München is already a step into the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League, after a commanding 2-0 win against Olympique Marseiile at the Stade Velodrome. After this win the anticipated meeting with Real Madrid is almost assured, as the Spanish giants defeated the surprise of the tournament so far, APOEL Nicosia 3-0 in Cyprus. Today it is time for FC Schalke 04 and Hannover 96 to step up to the stage, in the quarter-finals of the Europa League, against two strong Spanish teams which will give the Bundesliga teams a good battle.
FCB was in full control of their game in France, Mario Gomez and Arjen Robben making the return leg quite easy for the Bavarians. Marseille continued their bad series of results adding a ninth straight game without a win in all competitions. Pressure will grow on head coach Didier Deschamps for this slump. But for Bayern, this win means a more relaxed approach to the tight schedule up in front. Their performance yesterday is another proof of their return to top form, one which fans will hope will remain the end of the season, when they would like to celebrate the treble.
The path was made easy with a morale-lifting goal one minute before the half-time break, Mario Gomez finding the back of the net with a clean shot behind third choice goal-keeper Elinton Andrade. The hosts didn’t manage to reply and Arjen Robben added to their misery slotting the ball in the net after a great combination with Thomas Müller, after 69 minutes. The result was defended well until the end, the return leg becoming a formality or a wonder, a miracle that FCB shouldn’t rule out, even if Marseille seem incapable of one.
With Bayern setting the trend, Schalke and Hannover have only to follow, as they attempt to get the better of the Spanish teams, with FCB probably joining on this duel in the next round. Huub Steven’s side has in front the team which sparked fear after the next round, Athletic Bilbao. The Basque team got the better of Manchester United with a surprising double win, a 3-2 away at Old Trafford and a convincing 2-1 home at the San Mames. Marcelo Bielsa is the coach of this team and he has done a fantastic job with them, the rhythm of the team amazing, the Red Devils being surprised by the speed of play achieved by Bilbao, especially by men like Javi Martinez, Markel Susaeta and Fernando Llorente.
This is what the Miners should fear, the difference in pace between them and their visitors. Current Schalke striker and long time Real star Raúl has surely advised his colleagues about this team. Schalke had a claw their way to this round and they should not make the same mistakes as they did against Twente. It would be very important for the Royal Blues to get a good advantage from this first leg at home, as the San Mames is renowned as one of the toughest stadiums to play in Spain, a place where the pressure will come from every corner.
Hannover will enter another formidable arena in Iberia, the Vicente Calderón, home of Atlético Madrid. Mirko Slomka’s team is a huge surprise in the Europa League this season, but they have quite a task in front of them against a difficult opponent. “Los Colchoneros” (The Mattress Makers) won this competition in the first season of the current format, and have some important names in the squad like Diego Godin, Arda Turan, the top scorer in last season’s competition Falcao, and the former Werder Bremen and VfL Wolfsburg player Diego. Hannover arrived in this stage of the competition in style, after hammering Standard Liege at the AWD Arena, but they might find out that Atlético is a side on a different level. Defence will be the key tonight, the Spaniards having enough quality in their offensive line to scare teams like Barcelona or Real, so Hannover is forced to keep things tight at the back and not leave the same gaps as they left against Bayern, in their defeat last Saturday.
There will be two tough games, ones in which if nothing is settled from the beginning, Schalke and Hannover will have equal chances to go through. They are about to take an exam, a test which can also indicate where German football is at the moment in comparison with Spanish football. If Schalke and Hannover can survive this round, Bayern can finish off the job if they will keep their form against the nightmare of Real Madrid, with another win towards the final in Munich.
UEFA Champions League – Quarterfinals
at APOEL FC (CYP) 0-3 Real Madrid CF (SPA), return match April 4 in Madrid
at SL Benfica (POR) 0-1 Chelsea FC (ENG), return match April 4 in London
at Olympique Marseille (FRA) 0-2 FC Bayern Munich (GER), return match April 3 in Munich
at AC Milan (ITA) 0-0 FC Barcelona (SPA), return match April 3 in Barcelona
UEFA Europa League – Quarterfinals Today, return match April 5th
at AZ Alkmaar (NED) vs. Valencia CF (SPA), return match in Valencia
at FC Schalke 04 (GER) vs. Athletic Bilbao (SPA), return match in Bilbao
at FC Metalist Kharkiv (UKR) vs. Sporting (POR), return match in Lisbon
at Atletico Madrid (SPA) vs. Hannover 96 (GER), return match in Hannover